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Aaron Starmer's The Only Ones is speculative fiction about a boy raised on an island and the mysterious machine he builds when all but 40 kids vanish from the face of the earth. Martin believes the machine will reunite them with the people they love. But by offering hope without knowing exactly how his machine works, or what it will do, has he gone too far? In the vein of the great speculative master Ray Bradbury, but with a flavor all it's own, The Only Ones is unlike any book you've read before.

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If you’re drowning in all things pink and frilly, and the thought of shopping for another sparkly tiara and wispy wand this Halloween has you less than enthused, I’ve got the perfect book for you to share with your little one. In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, the latest in the popular Olivia series by Ian Falconer, the precocious piglet with a healthy ego is feeling depressed. With her usual flair for drama, she announces to her parents that she’s having an identity crisis: “I don’t know what I should be … All the girls want to be princesses.”

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I hope your school year is off to a great start! In my home, just because the transition has been relatively smooth (I’m keeping my fingers crossed!) doesn’t mean we’ve stopped reading books (like Llama Llama Misses Mama, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, The Kissing Hand) that help ease first-day jitters. We’re also reading books that aren’t overtly about school anxiety; they happen to be set in school and are fun to read. A frequent request at bedtime in our house is Marco Goes to School, a new picture book by the celebrated New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.

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Sonia Manzano’s initial claim to fame was her starring role on "Sesame Street" as Maria. Two picture books later, Manzano has written her first novel inspired by events in her own life. Loosely following what transpired in 1969 when a Puerto Rican activist group called the Young Lords attempted to take over a church in order to provide free-breakfast and educational programs for the East Harlem community, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is also a powerful coming-of-age story about a young girl who learns to take pride in her Puerto Rican heritage. 

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When sophomore Chelsea Knot outs a gay student at an alcohol-fueled party, her words put one student in a coma and two more in jail. They ruin her social life and threaten her father's job. Horrified by the consequences resulting from her words, she decides she will not talk at all. Speechless a YA novel about the courage it takes to speak out and the discipline it takes to stay silent.

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As we head into a new school year, here are two cleverly-executed picture books that help children think about numbers in a fun, engaging way:

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Featuring stories written by more than 35 of the biggest and best names in YA fiction, these three themed anthologies are an invaluable resource for the classroom and home library. While one collection focuses mainly on the effects of bullying on today’s teens, and another contains meditations on fate and the unknown, the third presents all sorts of stories starring witches, written by the top 18 writers of fantasy and science fiction. Take your pick; you can’t go wrong here.

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Author Alyssa B. Sheinmel joins us to talk about her book The Stone Girl, a coming-of-age novel about a girl who becomes body-obsessed as she tries to cope with her changing world. Join me in welcoming Alyssa to Letter Blocks!

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Don’t let the spare text and lush illustrations fool you. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which inspired an Academy Award-winning animated short film of the same title, is the kind of picture book that both adults and children will adore. In fact, you may want to buy two copies so that you can selfishly keep one for yourself. In the back flap, author, illustrator and filmmaker William Joyce (The Man in the Moon) calls this story his most personal yet.

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With the start of school fast approaching, I’ve been on the lookout for picture books that help young children prepare for the big day. My most recent happy find is Foxy, a gently humorous tale with bright, cheerful illustrations by the British author and illustrator Emma Dodd (I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!, Meow Said the Cow). Emily can’t fall asleep because she’s worried about the first day of school. Suddenly, a fox, accompanied by a bluebird sidekick, jumps through her window and asks, “What’s the matter? … Whatever it is, I’m sure I can help.”

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